Here is a Guest Post from a family member. I will not be sharing her name, but I want to share her story with all of you.
I have been thinking about immigration a lot. My father came to the USA in 1905. My mother came in 1922. They came by quotas. I have had no problems with that. I was just happy they could come and that I was born here.
My father came at the age of fifteen because Turkey was in control of Greece and the Turks were taking young Greek boys away from their families to fight for the Turkish army against the Greeks.
My grandmother gave my father a few gold coins and sent him on his way after dark.
My father walked from Kalloni, to the capital city Mytilini. I do not know how many kilometers Kalloni was from Mytilini. I do know that years ago a new road was built and driving time from Kalloni to Mytilini was forty five minutes.
My father came to Haverhill. He got a job for very little pay and lived with other young men from his village. They slept on the floor and were responsible for themselves.
In 1912, he went back to Greece to fight in the Balkan War. After the war, he returned to the United States and never had the chance to go back to Greece because of his commitment to his work.
For the rest of his working life, he worked six days a week from 6:30 until 8-9 o’clock. Sunday was his only day off. He started a grocery store in 1919 and had it until he got sick with heart trouble in 1958 and had to stop. He died in 1963. He probably had 2 or 3 week-long vacations his whole life, at least as far as I can remember.
My father’s life was not too much different from a lot of other young immigrant men of his time. Some of these men became very, very successful. Some, such as my father, were successful enough. My dad bought a triple-decker house, had a Pontiac car with a pull down shade in the back window, and sent his 2 children to college.
Education was the dream of all the Greek people who were early immigrants. Most of them had not had schooling past the second or third grade level. Many immigrants remained blue collar workers all their life. Even still, they recognized that with education, their children would have an easier life than they did.
I was born in the Depression. My father carried a lot of people every week who owed him money for their groceries. They would pay a little every week. My father provided their financial assistance, the government did not – government help and hand-outs did not exist.
People were very proud. They were responsible for themselves. I have heard of stories of mothers making Greek Avgolemono soup with water. No broth, no meat. I heard of another family who would shoot little birds from their 3rd floor tenement to cook for their families. I am sure a lot more stories like these exist.
My father had a salary of $32.00 every week. Two dollars went to my mother to spend as “mad” money – this meant an ice-cream sundae for me every Saturday downtown with my mother.
A government work program existed called the WPA. This was for fathers who needed work. They built buildings, roads, etc; and worked as much as they could to provide for their families. They would work 6 or 7 days a week. They had pride in their work and the families they were raising.
For all my life, I have always referred to my parents as immigrants from Greece, considering myself as the first generation born here. I am very proud of all immigrants and their families and what each has accomplished in the generations.
When my father and contemporaries came, they didn’t speak any English. When they got to Ellis Island, a note was pinned on their jackets with the name of the city they were going to. Life was not easy for them. They were stoned by previous immigrants who no longer found themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder. But my father, and all of the young boys he was with, knew that the U.S. gave them a huge opportunity. They worked hard to be good American citizens. Just being here was enough for them. Very few of them broke a law. As I raised my own family, I would have tears thinking about how my grandparents gave up their children at such young ages, so that they could lead a long and happy life in the U.S. They said goodbye to their children, and never saw them again.
I am so grateful for the opportunity the U.S. gave to my parents and the many Greek immigrants who I grew up alongside. I am also so grateful for the sacrifice my parents and others made for me and my generation.
Now we come to my point. The United States has laws on immigration. Because we are not enforcing these properly, either by people entering illegally over the borders or by not following the expiration of green cards, or visas or how ever— they have stayed here in the U.S. illegally. They are not documented because they are illegally here.
The U.S. cannot afford to open the flood gates to let anyone and everyone that wants to come here, enter. How we are going to solve the problem for the 11 million here illegally I do not know. But we need rules and laws and these have to be enforced.
I feel very badly for people who had to wait to come to the US the proper way.
I hope you can see my point of view in calling people who are not here legally, ILLEGAL!!